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The Baby and the Battleship

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John Mills and Richard Attenborough were ideally cast and were at their lower-decks best as sailors who go ashore when their battleship puts in at Naples. They visit baker’s daughter Lisa Gastoni, who agrees to go out with Attenborough only if they can take her baby brother Martyn Garrett with them. When they become involved in a brawl in a cafe, Gastoni and Attenborough get away, leaving Mills literally holding the baby.

The ship sails without Attenborough, and Mills has the problem of looking after the baby, which he has smuggled aboard the ship. Mills’ fellow sailors rally round and help him with the child. But the battleship is involved in an exrecise, and when a Marshal from a friendly totalitarian state (André Morell), pays a visit to the ship, the baby has to be smuggled from one hiding place to another.

Sophistication was at a premium: the farce was broad and very entertainingly played for all it was worth by the well-chosen performers under the spirited direction of Jay Lewis, who kept the pace fast and furious and the comedy quotient high.

Among those in the large cast making useful comic contributions were such familiar British film faces as Morell, Lionel Jeffries, Ernest Clark, Thorley Walters, John Le Mesurier, Kenneth Griffith, Gordon Jackson, Patrick Cargill and, almost inevitably in a British film of the period, Sam Kydd. Harry Waxman’s lush cinematography, notably of the well-used Naples locations, and the bright musical score by James Stevens and Humphrey Searle, attractively wrapped up a blithe comedy which ‘as an example of good wholesome British fun,’ said Variety, ‘should be hard to beat’.

production details
UK | 96 minutes | 1957
Director: Jay Lewis
Script: Jay Lewis, Gilbert Hackforth-Jones, from the novel by Anthony Thorne,

cast
John Mills as Puncher Roberts
Richard Attenborough as Knocker White
André Morell as Marshal